As I met with Doug for essentially our last one-to-one before I leave, I told him all about how much I have loved and valued the summer programs with which I’ve worked over the past few weeks. DFCI’s Family Fun Week in Ballybeen and PeacePlayers’ Belfast Interface Games in both North Belfast and West Belfast have brought me so much fulfillment. All three of those weeks were positive experiences to have at the end of this year. However, as one can probably tell from my posts on the 12th, I struggled with what was going on in Northern Ireland during that part of July. That week was not as positive as the week before and the two after. It’s felt a bit like emotional whiplash as I prepare to make my departure. And Doug summed it up really well today by saying, “As different as the experiences were of the 12th of July and the summer programs of which you’ve been a part, Patrick, they are both real.”
That got me thinking. I’ve experienced a lot this year. And every experience has had a whole host of thoughts and emotions to accompany it. But as different as they all have been, they have all been real.
This post is simply a list of some of my greatest joys in the work I did and some of my most ridiculous and random extracurriculars. This year has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, filled with rich experiences, unexpected challenges, and a lot of growth. As I look back, seeing such a blur of memories, I remind myself that each moment was real and it deserves to be treasured. But isn’t that how it works? We forget to stop and smell the roses, treasuring the precious time we have with people and places. And time just keeps ging. The years fly by. And this one has been no exception.
I guess time flies when you’re…
singing, “Stand up for the Ulster Men!” at the semi-final match.
laying on the grass in the Botanic Gardens after just getting a tattoo.
seeing the RHCP in Croke Park in Dublin.
getting “War Eagles” at the Guinness factory.
writing poetry during Lent.
saving trash to make art out of it.
Getting nicknames from the kids of Ballybeen.
climbing the Mournes in the middle of the night.
playing Gaelic football, soccer, and rugby in one day.
holding a newborn.
telling Greg that the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh is just another “wee dander” away. It wasn’t.
swimming in the Irish Sea.
reading in a coffee shop for over four hours.
meeting the First Minister of Northern Ireland and being confused about who the hell he is.
witnessing a flash mob.
wearing a “tacky Christmas jumper” and elf hat to meet my parents at the airport.
making kids cry while wearing a panda suit. (Unintentional.)
chatting with the local hardware shop owner about running long distances.
holding a handwritten (in latin) gospel of Luke from the 12th Century.
dancing at a Céilidh.
drinking a Scottish brew while taking in the sites on the ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull.
learning how to play the bohran.
listening to kids tell me funny sentences to say in the Irish language.
getting sick form compost coleslaw. (Long story.)
watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics live with Northern Irish, Spanish, and American people.
the only American playing in a street ball tournament.
salsa dancing with Polish girls.
sitting at a cafe in Amsterdam discussing politics.
zooming through the Hunger Games.
training for a marathon. (Actually, everything marathon related went by very. Very. Slowly.)
eating a cheeseburger filled with haggis on the Royal Mile.
watching a friend running with the Olympic torch. Then, an hour later, holding the Olympic torch.
having your hat stolen by seven kids in one day, each threatening to only give it back if I stay.
I hope I continue to value this year, in all of its fullness, remembering that every experience was very, very real.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist. That is all.” -Oscar Wilde